Mysteriously well-known despite its lack of real quality over the years, 2007 will see the twentieth birthday of the Test Drive series. Spanning 15 separate releases (22 in total if you add on the err … add ons) it’s been a series well-known for its hardcore driving goodness.
Where others have stuck to track racing and more stylised handling models, the Test Drive games have always been all about incredibly realistic driving. You even have to use your indicator!
But with realistic handling comes a lack of true opportunities to fling your expensive motor round hairpin bends. You’ll find yourself trundling along at realistic speeds and fretting about hitting the apex of each corner perfectly rather than making sure you look cooler than a frozen bag of peas.
So, can a series that hasn’t performed too well in recent years still cut it with the big boys?
The Test Drive series finally makes its long awaited debut on the next generation consoles with a whopping 1000 miles of road to traverse.
That’s not some bloated figure that includes reversed and flipped racing tracks mind. Nope, you’ve got your own gloriously detailed island to drive around. Think Grand Theft Auto, but without the humorous dialogue and multitudes of deaths.
Boot up the game and you’re first presented with a choice of characters to play and then you’re whisked away to a local car dealership to pick up a brand new motor. Thankfully, with TDU set on a gorgeous Hawaiian island there’s a supreme lack of cheeky cockney wide boys offering "cut and shut" type cars at a ridiculously over-inflated price price.
After that, well, that’s down to you really. Fancy sticking to the rules of the road and driving along at a leisurely pace taking in the gorgeous surroundings? Then go for it. Want to take part in both online and offline races? Fill your boots.
TDU just happens to be another of those freeform games where the gaming experience is completely shaped the way you want it to go. And it’s all the better for it.
If you’re lucky enough to be hooked up to the ever impressive Xbox Live system, you’ll be joined on your travels by a multitude of other motorists. And that’s where the fun really begins. You can spend hour after hour merely chatting away to a gaming pal, joining races, taking on simple missions. But if you happen to be one of those loner types, you’ll still enjoy yourself since the game is populated by fellow like-minded online gamers.
Although you can simply click on a marker on your map to quickly travel to a particular race you’re eager to take part in, exploration of the entire huge island is required if you want to discover every single potential mission (mainly involving deliveries – from stunningly expensive cars, through to equally stunning models) and race for you to try your hand in.
Completing missions and winning races is the only way to get the cash rolling in to buy another brand spankingly new car. There’s over 90 licensed vehicles in TDU, each of which is fully modelled in terms of both looks and handling. You can even sell on your sub-standard model online and get some more cash in the pot for that sparking Ferrari you’ve had your eye on for a while.
There’s no "story" to force you along however. So for the first few hours – you can feel a little, well, lost. You know what you can do, but not what you should be doing to ease yourself in.
But even with that in mind, TDU is a stunner with gorgeous looks, a huge area to explore and an impressive example of online integration. One for all petrol heads.